To Vaccinate Or Not to Vaccinate, That Is The Question…Or Is It?

It's important to do your research on vaccinations
It’s important to do your research on vaccinations

N has recently gone through his final dose of vaccinations until he is 12 – 13 months old. I mentioned in this post that he had he first two vaccinations but not he is all done for a while. I’m writing this largely because I’ve recently seen a lot of attention on the vaccinations in some Facebook groups I’m a member of. Most are in favour of giving their baby the vaccines, but some aren’t. The fact N has been vaccinated tells you our opinion on vaccinations, but let’s look at both sides of the argument for a short while. I will say at this point though that I’m not an expert in this at all and would certainly suggest you do your own research and speaking to your GP if in doubt.

What Vaccinations Do Babies Have?

It's quite the schedule!
It’s quite the schedule!

Based on the NHS website the order of the early vaccinations at four months and under (at time of publishing in May 2018) are:

8 weeks: 6-in-one vaccine (diptheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) and hepatitis B), Pneumococcal jab, Rotavirus vaccine, Meningitis B

12 weeks: 6-in-one vaccine, Rotavirus vaccine

16 weeks: 6-in-one vaccine, Pneumococcal jab, Meningitis B

What are they all though?:

  • Diphtheria – highly contagious and infection that is potentially fatal. It affects the nose and throat and sometimes the skin
  • Tetanus – a toxin gets in through wounds and can affect nerves causing symptoms such as stiffness and spasms
  • Whooping Cough – a highly contagious bacterial infection that affects the lungs and airways. It can cause coughing which can last for months. It can make babies particularly ill
  • Polio – this is quite rare because of the success of vaccinations but it can cause temporary or permanent paralysis and can be life threatening
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b– this can cause several terrible infections such as blood poisoning, lung infections, joint infections
  • Hepatitis B – this is an infection of the liver, which in children can cause severe damage
  • Pneumococcal infections – there are a whole host of pneumococcal infections which can result in a high temperature, aches and pains plus headaches
  • Rotavirus vaccine – this is basically diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Meningitis B – this is an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This can cause blood poisoning and even permanent damage to the brain or nerves

I think you’ll agree that these are illnesses we want to prevent happening to anyone, including vulnerable babies.

Why Should You Vaccinate?

There are a number of reasons why I believe vaccinations are so important to children. First and foremost they immunise the child from some horrendous diseases that can cause devastating damage to a child. I’ve explained above what the early vaccinations are for and what the diseases do…pretty convincing for me to do all I can to ensure N doesn’t get those.

Also, it’s the herd effect which you may have heard of. In essence if every single person across the globe was immunised then a disease would pretty much die out. We’ve seen some fantastic results with this on polio for example, which has virtually been wiped out. This global immunisation plan is so important. This won’t apply in the case of all infections though, like tetanus, where you can catch it yourself and not from other people. In others like measles you need a significant majority of people to be vaccinated for herd immunity to work.

Thirdly, and by no means least important, are those individuals who are physically unable to have the vaccinations. They could have allergies or other reasons for not being able to have the vaccination. The important thing here is that if everyone who can be vaccinated does have the vaccine then the chances of others at risk actually getting the infection is lessened.

Why Would You Not Vaccinate?

Risks vs Benefits
Risks vs Benefits

Some of the reasons people may quote for not vaccinating their child could include:

  • Will it cause my child pain and discomfort? – to be fair, yes they may well do. N for example didn’t like the injection (who does!). Not in all cases though. You have to ask yourself whether preventing your child getting the infections mentioned above is more important than very short term pain and discomfort. It’s a risk vs benefit challenge but I would say it’s short term pain for long term gain
  • Side effectsthis page from the NHS shows the more common and rare side effects of having vaccinations. It’s really important to do your research if you’re uncertain. The most common are swelling and redness around the injection site but this soon goes away. N had this but it has gone pretty quickly. Young babies could have a temperature and could be irritable and unwell. Again, it’s risk vs benefit comparison
  • A baby can’t deal with that many vaccinations at once can they? – Experts say that vaccines are an insignificant drop in the ocean of what a babies immune system can cope with. They already deal with all sorts from things like dust, chewing on their hands that have been who knows where, and all sorts of other things
  • Don’t vaccinations cause allergies? – In my research I’ve found nothing to suggest that having a vaccination causes an allergic reaction. By evidence I mean that I would expect to see are scientific journals, papers or experiments to show a causal link . Nothing I’ve found shows a link with allergic reactions. As I say I’m not an expert so haven’t read every bit of research ever written, but I can’t see anything that shows a link
  • Does the MMR vaccination cause autism? – This ‘evidence’ was based on a ‘study’ by the anti-vaccine activist Prof Andrew Wakefield. The study was entirely discredited. He was struck off the UK medical register for unethical behaviour, misconduct and fraud. This tells me that I shouldn’t believe his report at all. In my research I’ve not been able to find any actual evidence of this link. I mean real evidence, not just something a random person said, or what a newspaper said. I mean actual evidence. I found nothing. Nothing. Again, I’m not an expert and haven’t read every scientific paper ever written, but I’ve not been able to find a link, only the opposite showing no causal link. If in doubt speak to your GP

I’m sure there are other reasons too as to why people choose to not vaccinate their child, and of course it’s up to each parent to do what they think is the best for their child. I would personally think that if you are in doubt the best course of action is to speak to your GP about vaccinations. Don’t believe what you read in a newspaper, or your friends opinion (unless they’re a specialist!) or anyone or anything that is not specialised and medical. Ask your questions, challenge thoughts and opinions and then make up your own mind.

Risk Vs Benefits

Ultimately this comes down to risk vs benefit. The risk is the likelihood of something going wrong due to the vaccination vs the benefits received by having the injections. In my own personal opinion if there was a significant risk of something serious happening then they wouldn’t administer the vaccinations. If there was evidence of many babies/children having serious side effects frequently then they wouldn’t administer it.

For Clare and I there was never any doubt that the best thing to do was to give N the vaccinations. To us any risks seemed minimal in comparison to the enormous benefits that being vaccinated against the numerous infections noted above could bring. We felt it was too risky to avoid give him the vaccination.

As I say, if you’re uncertain speak to a professional such as your GP, and be careful what you read and believe (he says after you’ve read this post!).

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